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Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Services

Yale University provides a variety of GIS services through different departments. The University Library primarily serves patrons though the GIS Service at the Map Collection in Sterling Memorial Library. Other parts of the University Library that provide GIS service include the Epidemiology and Public Health Library, Government Documents (Mudd) Library, and the Geology Library.

Other departments on the Yale campus that are involved in GIS service include the Statistics Laboratory through Academic Media & Technology and the Center for Earth Observation. Follow the above links to these respective departments to find out more about what services they offer.

Service by Type


GIS Instruction is the priority for The Map Collection. The Map Collection provides instruction through multiple venues, including online tutorials, frequent GIS Workshops, access to ESRI Online Courses and personal reference interview. See the GIS Instruction page for more information.

Data & Software Searching

The first step in any GIS analysis project is the collection and assembly of the base dataset. It takes some time to become accustomed with the many sources of geospatial data and the many ways to search these sources. The staff at The Map Collection GIS Services are experts in finding and evaluating geospatioal data and can help patrons with difficult-to-find data. Generally, it is expected that the patron will do his or her best to search for needed geospatial data, then consult the GIS Service when they have exhausted the extent of their searching capability.

Besides geospatial data, there is a range of statistical and cartographic data and products that can serve as pieces of complete geospatial datasets. For example, there may be a statistical table with variables describing certain economic values broken down by municipal districts in the Philippines but no geographic features representing these municipalities. A solution to creating a complete geospatial data set with this piece may be finding a vector file that contains the Philippines municipal boundaries to which the statistical table could be linked. The GIS Service at the Map Collection provides a mechanism through which the patron can work to find solutions to these processing problems. However, providing searches for quasi geospatial data is limited mostly to cartographic data rather than statistical data. Services provided by other libraries on campus may be more suitable for finding statistical data. For example, if you needed to find statistics on the occurrence of asthma in children in Connecticut by town and wanted to map it out, the Epidemiology and Public Health Library may be a more appropriate place to find the statistical data. Once found, the GIS Service could help the patron determine the utility of the statistical data as a geospatial data set and find town boundaries to link to the statistical table.

Before requesting geospatial data, a patron should narrow the focus of what they are looking for and the purpose of using the data in their research. Generally the patron should provide some basic elements with requests for geospatial data: a specific geographic location or scope, preferred geographic units, scale, resolution, thematic type(s) of data desired projection, and coordinate system.

Processing and Distribution

If no existing digital cartographic files can be found for the patron, the GIS Service can also search the wealth of paper maps provided by the Map Collection as well as other cartographic sources to help the patron convert the paper maps into geo-referenced cartographic vector files.

There are many different types of geospatial data sets in many different formats available to GIS users. Often a patron will require data that whose source may span several different Internet sites, vendors, and collections and will have difficulty converting all the data to one standard and interoperable data set. The GIS Service at the Map Collection provides a processing and conversion consulting service that is flexible according to the needs of the patron and the current work load at the GIS Center.

Most geospatial data contains some sort of licensing agreement and copyright. Before distributing any geospatial data to patrons, the GIS Service at the Map Collection will explain the licensing and copyright idiosyncrasies for each data set and have the patron sign a document stating they understand the licensing and copyright issues.

GIS Software Access

ESRI's ArcGIS is the standard GIS software on campus. Yale University, through a collaboration with several departments and collections, maintains an Higher Education Site License for the full suite of ESRI Geographic Information Systems software. See the GIS Software page to find more information about the array of ESRI software available and computer labs on campus that maintain GIS software.

Output and Presentation

The last step in the process of utilizing GIS in research is outputting the analyzed and manipulated data. This is generally done by printing out a cartographic product on a printer. Currently, the Map Collection GIS Service provides a large format color printer (42" wide). The GIS Center will assist patrons with GIS printing issues such as visualization, basic cartographic elements that are part of a map, printing maps with large file sizes, and printing to scale. See the printing section for more information on the specs and cost of large format printing.

Also, the GIS Service will assist the patron in exporting maps to other formats or converting them for use in presentation programs such as MS PowerPoint or on the Web as HTML, Flash, temporal maps, or interactive maps


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This file last modified Thursday, May 21, 2015 8:51 AM
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